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Health Minister Commits to Reducing HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Denise A. Herbol, in discussion with Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, at the closing ceremony of the World Learning Caribbean Grant Solicitation Management (CGSM) Programme, which was held at the Knustford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on September 15. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Denise A. Herbol, in discussion with Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, at the closing ceremony of the World Learning Caribbean Grant Solicitation Management (CGSM) Programme, which was held at the Knustford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on September 15.
Health Minister, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Ministry will continue to advance a human rights agenda and push for measures to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination.

“Our mission is to achieve zero new infections with respect to HIV and sustain the gains we have made over the years. We have achieved a 42 per cent decline in new infections and we are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal 6A, which requires us to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he said.

The regional elimination goal of having less than 2 per cent mother to child transmission of HIV is also on track, the Minister added.

Dr. Ferguson was speaking at the closing ceremony of the World Learning Caribbean Grant Solicitation Management (CGSM) Programme, held at the Knustford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on September 15.

The Minister pointed out that the nation’s National HIV/STI Programme has had much success over the years, due in part to the valuable partnerships that have been forged.

“Through partnerships we were able to increase antiretroviral (ART) coverage to the current level of over 70 per cent of those with AIDS or 60 per cent of those with advanced HIV. We have seen a reduction in AIDS deaths by 43 per cent in 2010, compared to 2004 when our ART access programme began,” he noted.

The five-year programme, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at a cost of US$5.8million, was designed to improve the national response to HIV/AIDS in both Jamaica and The Bahamas.

The programme strengthened the institutional capacity of 15 civil society agencies in those countries, such as J-FLAG, JN Plus, Panos Caribbean, National AIDS Committee and Eve for Life, among others, to meet their targets concerning the most at-risk populations.

These included: men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers (SW) and youth at risk of contracting or spreading HIV.

Meanwhile, USAID Mission Director, Denise A. Herbol, said that enabling Jamaica’s health and prosperity is a top priority for the US Embassy.

She praised Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, for his staunch leadership in the fight against stigma and discrimination as well as lauded  the successes of the World Learning CGSM Programme.

For her part,  Acting Director of Education and Capacity Development at World Learning, Rebecca Spotts, acknowledged civil society for its “innovative and distinctive programmes implemented over the past couple of years” to tackle certain issues.